Health system report card gets mediocre grades from OECD

An OECD report covering 2015 shows that Israel's health infrastructures leave much to be desired.

AN ISRAELI DOCTOR examines a patient in this illustrative photo. (photo credit: MARC ISRAEL SELLEM/THE JERUSALEM POST)
AN ISRAELI DOCTOR examines a patient in this illustrative photo.
The Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development has given Israel a very mixed report card on its health system compared to the other 34 member countries.
In a report covering 2015 and issued on Sunday morning, it showed that while Israel is more efficient and has a better longevity rate than average, a lower child mortality and suicide rates and less alcoholism, its infrastructures leave much to be desired.
The Israel data, provided in 40 categories, were compiled by the Health Ministry’s Nir Kedar, Rani Plotnik and Dan Kinney.
Israel’s health expenditures remained at 7.4% of gross domestic product, making it – at 11th from the bottom – one of the lowest rates of the OECD countries, which average 8.9%.
While Israelis lifespans are among the longest in the OECD, the proportion of private health expenditure is one of the highest, and stands at 39%, compared with a 27.5% average.
Israel’s hospitals have only 2.3 beds per 1,000 residents, compared to the OECD average of 3.6 – putting this country fifth from the bottom. Although the number of magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) machines has increased in the last few years, we remain low on the list, with 4.2 per millions residents compared to the OECD average of 14.7; only Mexico is below Israel in this.
The ratio of MRI scans performed here is half of the average, with 31.1 per 1,000 residents compared to 62.8. However, the use of much-cheaper computerized tomography (CT) scanners is similar to the OECD average.
The ratio of physicians to the population here is slightly higher than the OECD average, but the ratio of nurses in Israel is significantly lower than average. The rate of medical school graduates here is the lowest in the OECD (only 5.5 per 100,000, compared to 12.1 in the OECD average. This is due to the fact that the state significantly subsidizes medical education, and therefore severely limits the number of students. The rate of nursing graduates is also half the OECD average.
Another negative statistic is that the consumption of antibiotics is significantly higher than the OECD average, often prescribed even for non-bacterial infections for which they are useless, promoting bacterial resistance to the drugs. The rate of psychiatric beds is about half the OECD average.
Unfortunately, the smoking rate, even in 2015, was higher in Israel than in most other countries, and in only the past year, our figure has risen by some 13%.
A positive figure, however, is that Israeli women are much less likely to have cesarean sections than those in most of the OECD countries.
The rate of overweight Israelis is somewhat below the OECD average.
Health Ministry Ya’acov Litzman looked at the bright side, saying that the report “shows once again that life expectancy in Israel is one of the highest in the world.”
However, his director-general Moshe Bar Siman Tov commented that it “presents a complex picture of the health system. Our health outcomes are at the top of the OECD, but infrastructure and resources need to be significantly improved beyond the improvements we have made in recent years. The health system, as mentioned in the report, requires special attention in light of the accelerated aging of the population.”